For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q53


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
What’s in a name? A great deal, actually. Just think about the millions of dollars spent each year on product name recognition in advertising. It staggers the imaginations. Untold energy is applied to develop just the right phrase, logo, or design. We live in a time and culture where it’s difficult to define the meaning of the simple word “is;”  yet, ironically, no effort is spared in finding just the right name to sell a product or represent a corporate interest. And when that name is defamed, consider the immense damage that occurs to all who are connected to it—just think of the high profile reputations ruined in the Enron scandal that occurred years ago. Even the way we name our children has taken on a new importance. I recall a National Football League TV commercial where a man looks at the names of newborns in a hospital maternity ward and asks, “What ever happened to the name Hank?” Today, it seems names have taken on new meaning, and we spend a great deal of energy and expense to choose and protect our name identifications.
With that in mind, consider the topic of the current catechism question. Shouldn’t we spend far more time lifting up and protecting the name of our Lord than we do our own names and corporate logos? As we prayerfully reflect upon the third commandment and its implications, may our Lord grant us appreciation and sober understanding of the name we bear as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; so may we honor our God and Savior.
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WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.   The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
Question 53 asks what the third commandment is, and answers that the third commandment is that you shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Comments and consideration:
Excuse me, but what is your name? Hello, my name is ________! And what is the name of the person who sent you? 
We place great importance upon a person’s name. Do you remember the scene in Dances with Wolves where characters at the Indian camp try to communicate their names before any further conversation is attempted? Likewise, at a recent seminar, my first step was to find my nametag at the registration table: Was I in the right place, and would my nametag confirm my right to be present? As another example, parents often begin thinking of names for a baby even before that child is conceived. What is it about our names?
In a way, our name is the starting point in describing who we are or what we are about. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has a lengthy entry which begins like this: 1) That by which a thing is called; the sound or combination of sounds used to express an idea, or any material substance, quality or act; an appellation attached to a thing by customary use, by which it may be vocally distinguished from other things. 2) The letters or characters written or engraved, expressing the sounds by which a person or thing is known and distinguished. (There are 15 more noun and verb definitions!) The word “appellation,” found in definition 1, is helpful; it means, the word by which a particular person or thing is called and known; name; title; designation. Related to our question at hand we find this tenth Webster’s definition listed: 10) In Scripture, the name of God signifies his titles, his attributes, his will or purpose, his honor and glory, his word, his grace, his wisdom, power and goodness, his worship or service, or God himself.
WSC Q54-56 will repeat the cycle of instruction as to what is required, forbidden, and annexed to the third commandment. For the moment, we will consider the word “vain.” It’s commonly understood that to take the Lord’s name in vain is to use profanity and abusive language, which is true. But as always, there is more to be learned upon closer examination. Even before we turn to the dictionary, consider the “vanity of vanities” described in the insightful book of Ecclesiastes. The array of definitions in the dictionary includes empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance; proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments. The word really means empty of meaning, worthless, fruitless; ineffectual, showy; ostentatious, or deceitful. Thus we can see how taking the name of God in vain came to mean using his name with levity or profaneness. But it really means much more than that.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Ex. 3:14-15. Consider what is occurring in this text. If I want to know someone, or want someone to know me, what is the first step? (1) If we want to pursue more than just a passing knowledge of each other, what else do we do? (2) What is God saying about himself in this text?
2.     In the OT, names were often used as a way to describe a person. Read Ex. 34:5-7 where God says in verse 5 that he will “proclaim” his name to Moses. How does God proclaim his name?
3.     Read Ps. 8:1 and 115:1. How does God bring praise and honor to his name? (See the text that follows these verses.)
4.     The third commandment instructs us that we are not to misuse God’s name, or better, we ought to make right use of it. How does Ps. 113:1-4 and Luke 11:1-4 describe how this should be done?
5.     Our heavenly Father desires that we exalt his name, but his desire does not stop there. In the unfolding of his plan of redemption there is another name he purposes to lift high, and that name is _________. (See Phil. 2:8-11.)
Answers:           
1) We find out their name, or introduce ourselves to them by telling them our name.
2) Provide some historical information that helps us relate to who the person is and what they are about.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q53, WLC Q111, and WCF XXII.I
WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
WLC Q111. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain [a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:7
CHAPTER. XXII.
Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
I.    A lawful oath is part of religious worship[a], wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth[b].
      [a]  Deut. 10:20; Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11
      [b]  Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 1:23; II Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; II Chron. 6:22-23
Question(s) for further study:

The harmony of the two catechism questions are the same; the confession bringing in the making of oaths in calling upon God as our witness in truth telling.  How is a lawful oath part of religious worship?  How would you define worship in this context? 

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